Brake Issues Prompts Lopatcong Township (NJ) Officials to Consider New Fire Apparatus

Lopatcong Township Fire Engine 7461 has its problems. It’s loud. It leaks oil. The battery exploded one time. And as a result of its brake issues, it almost crashed into a house near the Delaware Park Fire Co.

A quick-thinking Brandon Stires saw it rolling away from the firehouse on Park Avenue and leapt into action, Mayor Doug Steinhardt said at a council meeting. Stires is the company’s assistant fire chief.

Fire Chief Lou LaFord Jr. said the 1997 engine — the truck that gets water from a hydrant to the fire — was parked with the hand brake on. That didn’t stop it from rolling toward a house.

The 17-year-old truck has a 20-year life span, he said. It’s hard to find replacement parts because the manufacturer went out of business. 

LaFord recommended instead of fixing the brakes, officials invest in a demo engine. A demo engine is one that has been shown at different departments but never used to fight a fire. It has a $414,000 price tag, while a new engine would cost $587,000, he said.

The township can get the demo truck within a month, but a new one would take six months to build. Lopatcong has mutual aid agreements with neighboring fire companies that will respond if a building is ablaze in the meantime, LaFord said.

The out-of-service engine carries the only extrication equipment the township has, LaFord said. That’s what firefighters use to rescue someone who’s trapped after a car accident. While the engine isn’t in use, the Phillipsburg Emergency Squad is responding to the company’s calls with its rescue truck.

Council voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Donna Schneider dissenting, to acquire the demo engine. Schneider said she needed more information before she could agree to the expense.


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